Do you want to know all the new Android 12 features that could come to your smartphone (or tablet) with a future OS update? Google had released the first Developer Beta version of Android 12 a few months ago, but the full set of Android 12 features were only unveiled during its Google I/O 2021 event on May 19. These features were released with the Android 12 Developer Beta 2 update later that day. We have listed all the Android 12 features, including design changes, new features, and changes to existing features compared, in this in-depth article.
Android 12 Features: Complete List Of Design Changes, New Features, & Changes To Existing Features
Android 12 brings a major UI design refresh, focuses on improving the data privacy and security aspects, easier updates, improved data sharing, faster performance, and longer battery life. There are various small UI changes and new features as well. However, don’t expect all these features to come to your new or existing device as Android smartphone and tablet OEMs can enable or disable features based on their own agenda.
1. Colourful UI Design & Wallpaper-Based ‘Material You’ Theme
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Android 12 brings the biggest UI design refresh we’ve seen in years. Google is calling this new design ‘Material You,’ which basically means that users would influence the colour scheme of the UI through wallpapers. Android 12’s colour extraction protocol picks up primary and secondary colours from the current wallpaper and uses them to design UI elements across the whole system. Those colours influence the colour scheme of quick setting toggles (now called Tiles), keyboard, widgets, lock screen clock, and maybe even icons.
Moreover, many UI elements in Android 12 now have a bubblier design with rounded corners. Unlike previous versions of Android which had circular quick setting toggles, Android 12 has much larger toggles and they’re now called Tiles. They have a rounded rectangular shape, which means fewer quick setting Tiles are visible in one go. Even volume and brightness sliders are thicker and bubblier than in previous Android versions. Android 12 UI elements like copy/paste UI, floating menus, folders, long-press app menus, text selector, volume menu, widgets, and others have rounded corners.
2. Extra Large Clock Widget On The Lockscreen
A part of the new UI design is a mega-sized clock widget on the lockscreen. Its colours are inspired by the wallpaper. However, it is possible that the same lockscreen clock widget might not come to Android smartphones from all the brands. Some brands might implement it and others might not use the same styling.
3. New Quick Setting Tiles Design & New Tiles For Smart Home Controls, Digital Wallet, Internet, And Privacy Controls
As mentioned earlier, Quick Settings tiles in Android 12 are much larger and have a different shape (horizontal rounded rectangle) compared to Quick Setting toggles used in earlier versions of Android. Moreover, three new tiles are debuting with Android 12: Smart Home, Wallet, Internet, Camera Access, and Mic Access.
The Smart Home tile is a shortcut that gives you access to the smart home device controls page. In comparison, smart home device controls were placed in the power menu in Android 11. It looks like Google wanted to clean up the power menu. The Wallet tile gives you access to your digital wallet (Google Pay) and all the cards in it. The Internet tile (which replaces the current Wi-Fi toggle), when clicked, shows mobile data and Wi-Fi settings so that you can easily configure how you want your device to access the internet. The Camera Access and Mic Access tiles can be activated or deactivated to enable or disable the camera and mic access throughout the system (system apps, first-party apps, and third-party apps).
4. Conversation Widgets, New Widgets Design, & Widgets Organisation
Widgets are getting a much-needed overhaul as well. Google has introduced newly-designed widgets for clock, conversations, and weather. These widgets have quirky yet attractive designs and their colours are inspired by the current wallpaper. There are several design options for the new clock widget.
You can create a conversations widget for your favourite chat thread from messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Messages, Slack, and more, A conversations widget shows the chat thread’s icon and unread messages count. The weather widget has multiple design options, and you can choose it from the widget picker.
Speaking of the widget picker, its design has been simplified. It no longer shows all the widgets under their respective apps by default. The new widget picker just shows the app’s name and the count for how many different widget variants are available for that app. Once you clock on the app’s name, the available widget variants’ designs can be previewed.
5. Privacy Dashboard & Security Improvements
Google has also improved its focus on privacy and security with Android 12. With this new version of Android, the company has introduced various privacy and security-related features, including a brand new Privacy Dashboard. It shows a detailed timeline of exactly which app accessed a particular user data (camera, location, and microphone) at what time over the past 24 hours. Users can also easily tweak app permissions from there.
6. Camera & Microphone Access Indicators
Moving ahead with privacy improvements, Android 12 displays privacy indicators. These indicators appear towards the top of the screen when an app is accessing the smartphone or tablet’s camera or microphone. This makes it easier for the users to know when their camera or microphone is being used.
Android 12 also features two Quick Setting tiles: Disable Camera and Disable Mic. As the name suggests, the Disable Camera tile lets users quickly disable the camera access system-wide, which means that no system app, first-party app, or third-party app can access the device’s camera. The Disable Mic tile disables access to the microphone throughout the system, which means no app or service can use the device’s microphone.
7. Approximate Location Access For Apps
To stop apps from unnecessarily accessing user location, Google is offering two location data options: Accurate Location and Approximate Location. If a user doesn’t want a particular app to access their accurate location, they can choose to offer the app their approximate location. For example, a cab-hailing app like Uber might need your accurate location, but the weather app might not need it. So, the user can offer the weather app their approximate location.
8. Improved Notifications Design
With every new version of Android, Google keeps on improving the notifications system consistently. Android 12 brings a slight change to the notification design, including a larger app icon and a more prominent notification count for stacked notifications. The notification count for stacked notifications has been moved from the bottom to beside the arrow mark for expanding notifications. Tapping on the app icon in the notification expands the notification as well. There is also an option to snooze the notifications or turn messages into a chat bubble.
9. Easier Wi-Fi Password Sharing Via QR Codes & Nearby Share
You can now easily share Wi-Fi network password with other people via QR codes or Nearby Share.
10. One-Handed Mode
Google has finally brought the one-handed mode with Android 12. With a simple gesture, the whole UI shifts towards the bottom corner of the screen, making it easier for you to access UI elements with your fingers.
11. Haptic Feedback With Audio
With Android 12, developers can couple audio with haptic feedback in apps and games. The strength of the haptic feedback is derived from the audio. This feature can be used in games effectively to offer you an experience similar to what you get from Sony DualShock or Microsoft Xbox controllers. Moreover, video calls can offer custom ringtone along with matching haptic feedback so that the user can identify the caller even without looking at the screen.
12. Android 12 Updates Via Google Play Store
Google has added the Android Runtime (ART) to Project Mainline with Android 12, which means it will be easier to update certain parts of the operating system through the Google Play Store app, which means there will be no need to install a complete system update for certain features. It also means that you will get faster updates directly through Google, bypassing the carrier or the Android OEM for certain features like new fonts and emojis.
13. App Hibernation
Not all apps are used frequently, and users can put such apps on hibernation with Android 12. When the feature is activated for a certain rarely used app, its app permissions, notification permissions, and cache are removed by the system, making its footprint smaller. While it may not be of much use on phones with large amounts of storage space, it could make a difference on cheaper devices with limited storage space. Since the apps are in hibernation, they don’t consume any power, prolonging the battery life of the device.
14. New Emojis
Of course, a newer version of Android comes with newer emojis and visual changes to some existing emojis. There are now updated designs for the following emojis:
- Alarm Clock
- Beach With Umbrella
- Foggy Weather
- Injection Syringe
- Kitchen Knife
- Lotion Bottle
- Mobile Phone (now looks more modern with a bezel-less screen design)
- Shopping Cart
- Spiral Calendar
- Sun Behind Cloud
15. Universal Splash Screen For All Apps
All the apps on a device running Android 12 will now show a splash screen even if the app developer hasn’t implemented one. However, developers can tweak the splash screen look if they want to. The splash screen will change based on whether the phone has a dark theme or a light theme.
16. New & Smoother Animations
Android 12 also features newer and smoother animations across the system. There’s a jiggly overscrolling animation that you can see when you reach the top or bottom of the list. There are new animations when you press the power button to lock or unlock the device, charging the device and more. There is a ripple animation that is visible when you click on an item in a list. Chat bubbles also feature a smoother animation when the bubbles are moved on the screen.
17. New Gboard Keyboard Design
The Gboard keyboard app has a new design on Android 12. It changes the shape of the 123, spacebar, and enter buttons to a pill-shaped design. Moreover, it uses the colours extracted by the Material You system to change the colour theme of the keyboard.
18. Google Discover Material You Theme
The Google Discover page on Pixel phones supports the Material You theming system as well, which means its UI elements now use colours that are inspired by the colours that are extracted from the current wallpaper.
19. App Optimizations For Larger Screens
Finally, Google is paying some heed to UI optimization for large screen devices like foldable phones, tablets, and TVs. Even apps will feature a multi-pane UI to take full advantage of foldable phones and tablets.
20. UI and UX Improvements To Google Pixel Launcher
Google has made several improvements and added more features to the Pixel Launcher with Android 12. There are now 4×4 and 4×5 grid layout options. The 4×4 grid option uses the same icon size as that of the 5×5 grid layout option. As mentioned earlier, the widget picker inside the Pixel Launcher now has a simpler design. The Pixel Launcher app drawer and the multitasking menu now shows rounded corners.
21. Power Menu Shortcut In Quick Settings
Since the power button doesn’t open the traditional power menu by default on Android 12, there is a separate on-screen power menu button below the Quick Setting tiles. However, there’s no guarantee that this behaviour will be the same on all Android smartphones running Android 12. Some brands might retain the power button to only show the power menu.
22. Consistent Share Sheet
Thankfully, Google is ending custom Share Sheet in all the apps running on Android 12. This means that no matter which app you use, the Share Sheet menu will be consistent across the system. I, for one, welcome this change with open arms. I hate when apps display a custom-designed Share Sheet, and even Google is guilty of using a custom-designed Share Sheet inside some of its apps.
23. On-Demand Encoding/Decoding Support For AVC, AVIF, GIF, HDR, and HEIF
Android 12 now supports the AVIF image format (based on Google’s WebP standard), which offers better quality images at the same file size compared to JPEG. The newer version of Android also features on-the-fly decoding and encoding of AVC, HDR, and HEIF multimedia formats. AVC and HEIF formats feature better quality at the same size as that of conventional image and video formats. There’s native support for GIF files as well.
24. Multi-Channel Audio
Android 12 now natively supports up to 24 audio channels, which is especially great for AV receivers, media players, TVs, and other AV devices.
25. Performance Improvements
Google says that it has made several under-the-hood changes to the Android codebase to make it faster and smoother, and to reduce latency. The CPU time needed for core system services has been reduced by up to 22% and the use of big cores by the system server has been reduced by up to 15%. This makes the whole device faster, including faster app load times, smoother animations and transitions, and reduced jank and jitter.
26. Scrolling Screenshots
Android 12 also brings scrolling screenshots, at least to Pixel phones and devices running the stock Android version. Most Android OEMs like ASUS, iQOO, OnePlus, OPPO, Realme, Samsung, Vivo, and Xiaomi already had this feature for the past 2-3 years.
27. Screenshot Markup Tool With New Fonts, Floating Screenshot Panel
There is also a built-in screenshot markup tool within Android 12. It also features new fonts to add text on the screenshot. Moreover, the screenshot panel that appears after you capture a screenshot is now floatable, which means you can move it anywhere on the screen.
28. App Pairs
App Pairs, which first debuted with Galaxy smartphones, is now built right into Android 12. You can create app pairs of any two apps and launch them in multi-window mode so that you can use them side by side. You can even swap the position of those two apps with a double-tap.
29. Power Button Shortcut For Accessing Google Assistant
The power button no longer brings up the power menu in Android 12. Instead, pressing the power button summons Google Assistant. To access the power menu for restarting or powering off the device, you would need to use the power menu below the Quick Setting tiles.
30. Easier Access To Third-Party App Stores
Unlike Apple, which keeps on tightening its ecosystem with more restrictions every year, Google is actually opening up Android. With Android 12, it will be easier to use third-party app stores.
31. Safety & Emergency Section (Pixel Exclusive)
The Safety & Emergency section in the Settings menu in Android 12 links to the Google Pixel Safety app.
32. Extra Granular Battery Statistics
The battery life graph within the battery section in the settings menu on Android 12 now shows more granular data. The battery graph is now divided into two-hour windows, and each window has its own bar in the graph, and you can click on each bar to know which apps and hardware components used the battery during that time.
33. Clipboard Data Access Notification
Whenever an app access data from your phone’s or tablet’s clipboard, Android 12 shows a notification that displays the name and icon that accessed clipboard data. This makes it easier to identify notorious apps that sneakily access clipboard data from your device without your permission.
34. No Location Data Support If Apps Want Just Bluetooth Scanning
The apps that just want to scan nearby Bluetooth devices needed to have location data access in the previous versions of Android. However, with Android 12, such apps won’t be given access to location data.
35. Better Dual SIM Support On Pixel Phones
With Android 12, Pixel smartphones are getting better dual-SIM support. Pixel phones can now keep both SIM cards hooked onto the 5G network. Moreover, the phones can now use the Smart Forward feature to forward calls from one SIM to the other when there’s an active voice call.
36. Battery Life Stats For Pixel Buds
Pixel Buds can now display battery life statistics and estimated remaining battery life numbers can be seen for the buds.
37. Fixed Google Photos Out Of Sync Prompts
Google has finally fixed things in the background so that those annoying ‘Out Of Sync’ errors will no longer be visible in Google Photos on Android 12.
38. Game Mode In Google Pixel Phones
Pixel smartphones get a dedicated Game Mode with Android 12. This feature can now put the phone in the Do Not Disturb mode when a user is playing a game. It also has some game optimisation features and a live FPS (Frames Per Second) counter to know how well a particular game is running on a device, similar to PCs.
39. Support For Bluetooth LE Audio
Android 12 brings native support for the Bluetooth LE Audio codec, which is a new standard for low-power audio transmission over Bluetooth. It uses the Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3) which promises to offer improved audio quality over the current SBC codec. Bluetooth LE Audio also supports features like multistream audio, broadcasting wireless audio via Bluetooth to multiple devices, and possible integration with hearing aid devices in the future for more seamless accessibility options.
40. Better Audio Transitions
The transition between audio will be smoother. For example, when music is being played, the user gets a notification, the music will slowly fade out and then you will hear the notification ringtone. Once the notification ringtone is done playing, the phone will smoothly switch back to playing music.
Moreover, the audio from the app that’s currently being actively used will be given priority over background apps playing audio. This feature will also be extremely useful for foldable phones and multi-screen devices.
41. Built-in Android TV Remote Control App
Android 12 features a built-in remote control app for Android TV OS-based TVs. It has a new and modern design. Users don’t have to use the buggy Android TV Remote app from the Play Store. The app also offers low-latency typing on an Android TV interface via the phone’s keyboard.
42. Widgets Support In Google Assistant
Google Assistant can now show data via widgets from specific apps. For example, when you ask it to show your weekly running stats, it can fetch a neat widget from Strava to show your weekly running statistics.
43. Support For Car Keys, Smart Locks
Android 12 brings support for digital car keys and smart home locks. Various car manufacturers, including BMW, and smart home device makers are working with Google to make their products work with Digital Keys. A compatible car can be locked or unlocked and its engine can be turned on or off using digital car keys.
44. System-Level Management Of Trash Files
This isn’t a final feature yet on Android 12, but Google is working on a centralised trash file management system. This means that the storage menu in Settings now shows how many files are there in the trash and an option to delete all of them in one go. This feature could go live with the future beta versions of Android 12.
45. Universal Search Support For Third-Party Apps
With Android 12, the Google Search bar and app launchers can pull data from third-party apps. This means that you can search for something and get all the matching information from all the apps on a device.
46. Quad Bayer Camera Support For Third-Party Apps
Third-party apps on Android 12 can now support quad-bayer camera sensors. It means that those apps can now capture images with higher details and quality. They can even capture better images in low-light conditions. This is great for users who have a habit of capturing images directly through apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. In earlier versions of Android, such apps didn’t support high-resolution or quad-bayer camera modes, which meant that they captured images with far lower quality when compared to the phone’s primary camera app.
47. Third-Party Apps Can Support Special Camera Modes Like Night Mode, Portrait Mode, & More
Google has also added a system in Android 12 that lets third-party apps support special camera modes like Night Mode, Portrait Mode, and different cameras on the device. It means that apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Telegram, and WhatsApp can now capture higher quality images in various lighting conditions. Imaging capturing Night Mode images directly within Instagram and WhatsApp. That would be so cool, right?
48. Better App Link Support
Apps that support specific links can now behave better while switching from one app to another or from a browser to an app on Android 12. In the app info section, there’s an easy to use toggle that allows the app to open supported links.
49. Progress Bar For Storage & Battery Stats
In Android 11, the storage section in the Settings menu had bar indicators to show the storage occupied by each file type, but the overall free storage space was indicated by a circular icon. With Android 12, Google is replacing the circular icon with a bar indicator to make the whole section more consistent. The battery stats section in Android 11 had a big battery icon to show the remaining battery. Android 12 replaces that with a bar indicator. Yay for consistency!
50. Accounts Section Now Renamed To Passwords & Accounts
The ‘Accounts’ section in the Settings menu is now renamed to Passwords & Accounts as it also contains Google’s Password Manager and password autofill related settings.
51. One-Handed Screen Lock Keypad Nearer To Bezels For Easier Access On Tablets
For devices with larger screens (such as tablets), Android 12 shows the screen lock numeric keypad and pattern pad closer to the sides (either left or right) so that it is easier to access with one hand.
52. Make Screen Extra Dim
Android 12 also brings an ‘Extra Dim’ setting in display settings to make a display even dimmer when the conditions require. This feature could be useful for people who want to use their smartphone or tablet in completely dark rooms without waking up others in the room and to save their eyes from higher-than-required screen brightness.
53. Fonts & Emojis Can Be Updated Without System Update (Via Google Play Store)
Things like fonts and emojis can now be updated directly via the Google Play Store, thanks to the ART (Android Runtime) being a part of Project Mainline, starting with Android 12. It means that devices don’t need full system updates to bring some new features.
54. Changes To Pattern Lock, PIN Lock UI
Android 12 brings thicker patterns on the pattern lock UI and the PIN lock UI now appears cleaner.
55. Bluetooth Game Controller Battery Stats API
Android 12 also shows battery charge levels for Bluetooth gaming controllers. This feature wasn’t available in previous versions of Android.
56. Media Player Widget Control Limits Customisable To Certain Apps
Google had introduced a central media playback widget with Android 11. It displayed media playback controls, album art, progress bar, and even playback target (device speaker, wired or wireless earphones, or Google Cast devices). However, some users might not want all the media apps to appear in that widget. So, Google is offering an option to enable or disable an app from using that media playback widget.
57. Better Gestures In Immersive Mode
Some apps use immersive (full-screen) mode while displaying images and videos. This mode hides even the gestures button and the status bar. However, it requires a user to use two gestures (one tap and one back gesture) to exit the immersive mode. With Android 12, Google is using machine learning to allow a user to exit the immersive mode with just one back gesture to save time.
58. Picture-in-Picture Resizing
The Picture-in-Picture (PiP) window can be resized on devices running Android 12. It means that when a video is playing inside a PiP window, you can enlarge or reduce the size of that window, depending on your preferences.
59. Android 12 Makes It Harder To Use 2.4GHz Band In Wi-Fi Hotspot
Android 12 devices will now make it harder to use a 2.4GHz band in the Wi-Fi Hotspot mode. By default, it will use the 5GHz band. If users want to use the 2.4GHz band on their phone’s Wi-Fi Hotspot feature, they need to activate the ‘Maximise Compatibility’ feature from the Wi-Fi Hotspot’s menu.
60. Better Rich Content Support Across The System
Rich content can be dragged and dropped across apps, text fields, clipboard, and the keyboard in Android 12. Apart from unformatted text, Android 12 also supports audio, images, stylised text, videos, and more to be inserted into text fields and other areas of the operating system, making it easier to share data across apps.
61. Apps Open Faster From Notifications
Android 12 is faster when switching from notifications to the app that generated that notification.
62. Support For P2P Wi-Fi Direct & Wi-Fi Router Connection At The Same Time
Devices running Android 12 can stay connected to the Wi-Fi router and another device via Wi-Fi Direct (P2P mode) simultaneously. It means that you can access the internet even while you’re sending or receiving data from other devices through P2P connections like Wi-Fi Direct.
63. Support For UWB API
Android 12 brings support for UWB (Ultra Wideband) which is now being used in newer devices for things like finding lost devices and unlocking cars or smart home locks. Google has a dedicated API that developers can use to support UWB connections.
When Will The Stable Version Of Android 12 Be Released?
While Google hasn’t revealed when it plans to release the first stable version of Android 12, it has published a time frame for its testing and release. Going by that information, we expect Google to release the first stable version of Android 12 sometime towards the end of August 2021 or during the first two weeks of September 2021. However, this release schedule is only applicable for Google’s own Pixel smartphones.
Android OEMs like ASUS, iQOO, OnePlus, OPPO, Realme, Samsung, Sony, Vivo, and Xiaomi will release Android 12 updates to their compatible smartphones a few months after Pixel phones get their Android 12 OS updates. It all depends on the brand’s release strategy and timeline. OnePlus and Samsung could release the Android 12 update to some of their high-end phones before the end of 2021. The same might not happen with ASUS, iQOO, OPPO, Realme, Sony, and Vivo.
Android 12: Fun Facts
- Android 12 is internally called ‘Snow Cone’
- Android 12 Developers Preview 1 and Developer Preview 2 builds was released prior to Google I/O, but none of the major UI changes were a part of those builds.
- The major Android 12 redesign images were leaked days before the Google I/O 2021 event.